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Journals from Semester abroad in Quito, Ecuador

2008-01-16 Hot Lava

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My host sister Carla and I, tired out at 4,100 meters (13,450 feet) above sea level!

Hola everyone, I thought that title might get everyone's attention. Dad told me I should let Mom know that no, I am not traipsing through hot lava on my way to class. There is a volcano erupting around here (Turunguhua, I think, but it's hard to spell). However, 130 km is actually a good distance away, and although I think people in the town of Baos are being evacuated Quito is fine, and so is Cumbay. So don't worry, Mom! I finally had my translation class on Friday, and loved it, but it looks like it's going to be hard. Of the twenty or so students registered for it who came to class, only four of us qualified automatically to actually take the class. The professor had everyone fill out a little survey in Spanish (since all but one of us are exchange students), read them over, looked at our scores on the Spanish placement exam, and told all but four of us that they didn't qualify. I guess we had to get over 90 out of 100, and there were two 90s, an Ecuadorian, and me. Everyone else had to take another exam, and he's going to grade them to see if they qualify. I heard that last semester he only let 6 people into the class! I also had Gender and Society on Friday, and I really liked it. It turns out the class is about half Ecuadorian, which I couldn't tell until that half started talking. There are so many blond Ecuadorians and tan, dark-haired exchange students that it's really hard to tell (at least for me) who's who unless someone is either talking or obviously lost. Anyway, the class sounds pretty similar to the wonderful Gender and Communication class I took freshman year, only this time in Spanish and with a focus on Ecuador, so the viewpoint of the same issues is very different. I think I was the only exchange student who talked, but I think I did all right, and as usual talked kind of a lot. I'm hopeless that way... After class I went home and we had "Aztec-style soup" for lunch, which was chicken and bean soup with avocados, tomatoes, cheese, and Doritos (yes, Doritos) on top. It was actually really good, though putting Doritos in soup would never have occurred to me if they hadn't suggested it. I guess it's one of the family's favorite soups. Friday afternoon/evening Carla took me to go see her friend play soccer. It was a very entertaining car ride, with four Ecuadorian girls talking a mile a minute about all of their recent boy troubles in Ecuadorian slang that I was mostly able to decode as long as I concentrated hard. Then they started talking about class, and since they're all law students I got a little lost, but eventually they went back to more decipherable topics. Here are a bunch more vocab words for those of you who are interested (again, disclaimer: I may not have them completely right, but this is the gist of it. Plus, a lot of these words might not be particularly Ecuadorian, I may just not have run into them before.): ao/a: brother/sister (I hardly ever hear "hermano/a") el saco: sweatshirt/light jacket la chompa: same as saco, though maybe a little thicker las pantuflas: slippers canguil: palomitas chunchi: hairtie hecho el rico/hecha la rica: what mexicanos would call fresa virar: doblar chumar: to drink (chumado/a: drunk) Also, everyone says "ciao," rather than hasta luego, nos vemos, or adis. And another phrase I hear a lot is "que bestia," which means different things depending on the context. Usually it means something like "how terrible!" "what a thing to say!" "that sucks!" but some times it can mean cool. So for clarification sometimes after someone says that something is "bestia" the other person will say "bestia como animal, o bestia como chevere?" Anyway, on to today. Sorry for waking you up at 7am, Dad, I forgot about the time difference when I went to make the phone call... I ended up going back later to call Oscar's family. I spent most of the morning studying (I have to read almost 45 pages for Gender and Society, in Spanish), then in the afternoon Carla and I went to "El Teleferico". It is basically a ski lift to the top of a mountain that overlooks Quito, and it's quite literally breathtaking what with the view combined with the lack of oxygen. I took lots of pictures, and we met up with Michelle (this family's exchange student from last semester) and some of her exchange student friends from her internship's hospital. Then they left, and Carla and I met up with her friend. He seemed very nice; I guess they went on a summer program to Chicago together and decided there that they would be best friends. They call each other "bes-fren" with the accent on the first syllable, it made me smile every time. Carla actually can pronounce "best friend," but I don't think he can, so they just go with "bes-fren." Anyway, we just got back to the house and I'm "watching" the Seahawks game online by occasionally refreshing the page so that the score updates. 35-17, it is not looking good... Quick Dad, fold that good-luck laundry! Ciao, Lily

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